Illinois Sports Betting Delays Frustrate Would-Be Bettors
Illinois was seemingly racing toward implementing sports betting after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the state’s sports betting bill into law in June, but it has stumbled out of the gate since then.
Many in the state, including members of the general public who offered blunt criticism of the slow process during the Illinois Gaming Board’s open inquiry for sports betting regulatory processes, don’t believe the state is moving with any urgency at all right now.
In short, people in Illinois want state regulators to speed up the process so they don’t have to travel to places like nearby Indiana, a state that already beat Illinois to market for online sports betting.
Cigarettes and gas will be more expensive on Monday: Gov. J.B. Pritzker just signed a new budget that raises fees — and introduces gambling to Chicago — to fund construction projects across Illinois. https://t.co/srwZtAJssf— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) June 28, 2019
Illinois Regulators Sorting Through Recommendations
Why have other states been able to roll out their programs so quickly while Illinois keeps lagging behind? Perhaps much of it has to do with the state’s drawn-out public comment period. It lasted a full month and led to hundreds of pages of feedback from the various stakeholders.
“This public comment period is an important step in a process to ethically and expeditiously establish a regulatory framework to allow sports wagering in Illinois,” said gaming board administrator Marcus Fruchter in an August statement, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “In order to make the process of rule creation as transparent and independent as possible, it is important that the public and various stakeholders have an equal opportunity to submit comments about the Sports Wagering Act ...”
Much of the feedback received came from attorneys representing local casino corporations, industry associations and racetracks, according to the Sun-Times.
Now it’s up to Illinois state regulators to sort through all those comments to find the ones with the most merit and then decide how best to implement the state’s long-awaited sports betting program.
Among other recommendations to be considered by regulators are those set forth by Chicago’s five professional sports teams and sportsbook operator William Hill.
Chicago’s Professional Sports Teams Want Exclusivity
One of the biggest hurdles to Illinois putting together its set of sports betting rules is that Chicago’s professional sports teams want to set up their own sportsbooks without any outside competition within a five-block radius of their home fields and stadiums.
Illinois’ sports betting law authorized sports wagering licenses for up to seven sports facilities with a capacity of 17,000 or more, and it seems the MLB’s White Sox and Cubs, the NFL’s Bears, the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks are all interested in moving forward with their own sportsbook plans.
But the teams hired a lawyer to submit their preference to regulators during the public comment period to indicate their preference that it only made sense for the teams to pay the $10-million-apiece sports betting license fees if the state would keep rival casino-tied sports betting operations and Illinois Lottery betting kiosks out of their territories in return.
Essentially, the teams only consider the heavy price tag worthwhile if they're guaranteed some sort of a small monopoly.
“Protecting the teams’ exclusive right to authorize sports wagering activity within the five-block radius both promotes the economic interests of the state and community, and protects the teams’ investment in their fans and the quality and integrity of the games,” wrote Attorney Donna More on behalf of those teams according to the Sun-Times.
Operator Wants 270-day Grace Period for Compliance
Bookmaker William Hill offered its own set of recommendations during the public comment phase which included asking for sportsbook operators to be given at least a 270-day grace period for full compliance to whatever set of rules Illinois ultimately adopts.
According to that recommendation, William Hill doesn’t believe operators would have enough time to meet the many assumed regulatory requirements that would have to be understood and adopted by bookmakers in the “matter of weeks” the companies would have to roll-out their offerings.
The company also expressed the difficulty that operators might encounter by rule changes being made after the launch and said that the 270-day grace period was a number that made sense based on their internal findings after rollouts in others states that implemented sports betting programs, specifically New Jersey and West Virginia.